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Codifying and Improving the Cure Process

Historically, North Carolina’s absentee ballot rejection rate has been higher than the national average. In North Carolina’s 2016 general election, absentee ballots were rejected at a rate three times higher than in-person ballots. According to North Carolina’s 2016 absentee ballot data, 75% of all rejected ballots were due to a missing voter signature or a missing witness signature.

In 2020, voters in North Carolina benefited from a cure process implemented subsequent to litigation at both the state and federal level. According to data provided by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, voters statewide requested 1,475,700 absentee ballots in the 2020 general election – 20% (1 in 5) of all registered voters. Over 18% of North Carolina voters voted by mail in 2020 and almost 8,000 voters successfully utilized the cure process to cure errors with their absentee ballot envelopes.

Policy Memo: Codifying and Improving the Cure Process

Click here to view the PDF of this Policy Memo.

Recommendations to Codify and Improve the Cure Process

The current cure process that is currently in place via Numbered Memo 2020-19 should be incorporated by statute with the following alterations and improvements: 

  1. Voter Notification Requirements: 
    • Correspondence to voters about the curing process from county boards of elections must come in an envelope that clearly demonstrates it is election mail. 
    • Deadlines must be included on the external body of the envelope. 
    • All correspondence with voters should include specific information on the EV sites available to the voter and their specific ED precinct location should they choose to vote in person.
  2. Prohibition on signature verification as long as there is a witness requirement in force.
  3. Hearing provision at canvass for voters whose ballots are marked as deficient, including remote hearing options.
  4. Requirement that county boards of elections should attempt to contact voters by every method available: phone, fax, email, and mail. 

Current Cure Process via Numbered Memo 2020-19

The absentee ballot certificate — the area on the back of the absentee ballot envelope where the voter, witness, and (if necessary) assistant must list their information and sign — will be screened for deficiencies after it arrives at the County Board of Elections office. Importantly, voters whose ballots were marked as deficient or were spoiled may choose to vote in person during Early Voting or on Election Day instead of utilizing the cure process. 

Absentee ballot deficiencies fall into two different categories and can be fixed with different processes:

If the issue can be fixed with a Cure Certification (Category A)

  • The voter will receive a Cure Certification in the mail and, if the voter provided an email address when requesting an absentee ballot, by email as well. 
  • If completing a paper Cure Certification, the voter should use a regular pen. 
  • If completing an electronic Cure Certification, the voter should sign it with a unique (not a typed) signature. 
    • This means using your mouse / finger or a stylus to sign your name electronically.  
    • A typed signature is not acceptable, even if it is cursive or italics such as is commonly seen with a program such as DocuSign. 
  • The cure certification may be submitted to the county board office by fax, email, in person, or by mail/commercial carrier (UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.). The cure certification may only be returned by the voter, the voter’s near relative or legal guardian, or a multipartisan assistance team (MAT).
  • The cure certification must be received by the voter’s county board of elections office by 5 PM on Thursday, November 12.  

If the issue requires a new ballot be issued (Category B): 

  • The voter will be mailed a new ballot, which they should vote and return via mail or in person at an Early Voting site in their county or at their County Board of Elections office. 
  • The ballot must be returned by mail or by returning in person (only the voter or the voter’s near relative / legal guardian may return). 
  • The absentee ballot must be received by the voter’s county board of elections office by 5 PM on Election Day, OR postmarked by 5 PM on Election Day and received by 5 PM on Thursday, November 12.